Has Agile failed?

Companies often refer to Agile as a way of responding more accurately to customer needs, as a means of working more transparently whilst empowering employees to assume further responsibility for their actions. Whereas the advantages that come along with an agile approach may seem promising, numerous companies fail to implement it as a valuable way of working.

The wrong assumptions may cause the methodology to fail from the beginning

Firstly, organisations might neglect the impact that switching to an agile methodology brings along. The decision whether to adopt an agile working method as a company should be thoroughly thought through. What advantages can the individual business units gain from this? Are our processes and procedures too entrenched for the change to pay off? Determining the company’s ambitions is key whilst assessing its organisational structure, as all too frequently an Agile approach doesn’t succeed, simply because the company’s needs are based on inaccurate assumptions.

MindForest attaches the utmost importance to setting expectations correctly right from the outset. In all projects, a mix of top-down and bottom-up approaches is used, in order to ensure the company’s ambition is accurately and unambiguously defined.

An important aspect of managing change is making people understand why the transformation is happening; this facilitates a smoother transition to adhere to change.

It is particularly important to be aware of how the effectiveness of Agile is limited. Large companies in particular, which have to stay in line with externally imposed deadlines, will encounter difficulties. Incremental work is strongly and negatively affected by deadline pressure.

Switching to Agile is a change of habits

Furthermore, before actually deploying an agile approach, companies have to prepare their employees accordingly. An agile mindset helps to ensure that the change is crowned with success. Fail fast, learn fast is an approach that requires a specific change in how an organisation operates. Employees must be encouraged to accept & embrace responsibility to show their capabilities. A so called no blame culture will enable a smoother acceptance of new methodologies. MindForest has adopted a no blame culture for its own internal functioning, in order to encourage its employees to aim high. It implies that human mistakes are natural and existing processes that allow the error to occur. As Malcolm Forbes used to say,

“Failure is success if we learn from it”

Employees have to be ready to embrace the change, developing an agile mindset is key. Just like with any form of change, there will always be employees who resist transition. There are clear parallels between classic change management and an agile approach: the idea of using specific change/agile ambassadors helps to improve acceptance of the new way of working. According to Forbes[2],

Poor communication is still the primary contributor to project failure.

Adopting new rituals goes hand in hand with harmonising communication habits. A particularly positive aspect of agile approaches concerns the increased exchange between employees. This privileges a transversal collaboration approach which helps to discard silo working. More frequent feedback rounds are essential to push the agenda of a continuous optimisation approach; in this way taking quick action enables the company to optimise as quickly as possible.

MindForest advocates the implementation of a communication plan for any change project, to ensure that employees are well informed about project milestones and the impact they will bring. In addition, employees should always be given the chance to ask specific questions about the project. This gives everyone the feeling of being actively integrated in the feedback loop and can help to identify certain risks at an early stage.

Rapid decision making as a key enabler

Recent events have shown to what extent elements from an agile approach can help throughout a crisis.

Rapid decision making enables a faster response to imminent threats, such as we have witnessed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Business models have to be altered rapidly in order to react to external events. As a result, a leading supermarket chain could benefit from short decision-making paths to best adapt to the challenges caused by the sanitary crisis.

MindForest frequently redefines together with its clients their roles and responsibilities, since a common understanding of one’s duties helps to escalate and prioritise sensitive decisions. In order to innovate, companies may need to rethink their internal organisation to align their decision making and not miss out on promising opportunities.

"It is safe to say that agile is not meant for everyone."

However, this is often not due to the methodology itself, but much more to the company’s expectations. Working in an agile way is only a means to an end and should never be the main objective. Nonetheless, it is advisable to think about certain components of the agile manifesto: frequent communication, employees being granted greater responsibility, equal distribution of tasks and quick decision-making benefit most organisations.

Let us help you!

Do you want to successfully implement Agile methods in your organisation? We are happy to diagnose your organisation’s maturity, assess your current challenges and support you in this project.
[1] Photo by CHUTTERSNAP on Unsplash [2] (accessed on 09/02/2021 at 16:20)